Safe battery disposal campaign launched with Sandwell Council

WMFS teams up with Sandwell Council to warn against unsafe battery disposal

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Published on 8 December 2023

Sandwell Council, partner Serco and West Midlands Fire Service, are warning residents of the dangers batteries and electrical items going into bins pose and advising them on how to dispose of them.

The move follows a spate of fires in the back of refuse and recycling vehicles, and at waste facilities across the country due to batteries being disposed in household bins.

As well as traditional batteries, many everyday household items including laptops, mobile phones, electric toys, e-cigarettes, bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes and power-bank chargers contain hidden batteries. This can make them hard to notice or separate. Lithium-ion batteries in particular, which carry the highest risk of combustion, have become increasingly popular in recent years.

A West Midlands Fire Engine alongside a Sandwell/Serco waste disposal truck

Watch Commander Andy Pincher said: “We’ve got lots of useful advice on our website about electrical safety and how to charge batteries safely. Disposing of them safely and responsibly is really important.

“They can start fires in refuse collection vehicles, putting the vehicle crews, our firefighters and the public at unnecessary risk. If we have to deal with a refuse vehicle fire, it can cause significant disruption on the roads.

Andy Pincher

Watch Commander

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We encourage residents to dispose of batteries and electricals correctly by taking them to a recycling point.
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Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “Ahead of the Christmas clear out, we want to make residents aware of the dangers batteries pose if not disposed of safely and to make sure we keep our waste collection crews, recycling centre staff and firefighters safe.

“I urge residents to be responsible – it’s easy to find out where your nearest recycling point is and dispose of your old batteries and electric items there, reassured that you are not going to cause any fires or pose any dangers to anyone.

“Even if batteries that end up in bins don’t cause a fire in our vehicles, they could end up in landfill sites. Once there, they will leak out toxic chemicals which can be harmful to people and wildlife.

“I’d also encourage residents to consider buying rechargeable batteries as modern ones hold their charge much better than was previously the case and can be charged more quickly.”

Tony Marston, Senior Contract Manager at Serco said: “Should batteries end up in the body of the recycling truck there’s a very real risk of the battery being punctured by the compacting equipment with the potential to ignite or explode in the back of the lorry, causing damage, disrupting waste collections and ultimately putting lives at risk.

“The good news is that small batteries can still be recycled at the kerbside just as long as they’re separated into a clear bag. Residents should put the bag on top of their blue lid bin for our crews to put into a side compartment.

“Alternatively, both batteries and electricals can be taken to our Household Recycling Centre in Oldbury.”

The correct way to dispose of all types of household battery, is to remove them from the electrical item, if possible, and recycle them both separately.

Small household batteries can be put inside a clear plastic bag and put on the blue lid recycling bin to be collected separately by the bin crew.

Alternatively, batteries and electrical items can be taken to the Household Recycling Centre in Oldbury.

There are also collection points in all major retailers that sell batteries and electricals.

Residents can find their nearest battery and electrical recycling point online.